When did these words change? ["Turkmen" and "Sheik"]

Okay, this one has been knocking around in my brain for a while, but I just got around to posting it. Naturally, some of the best examples have already slipped out of my lil’ brain.

I’ve actually got only two examples, although I used to have others.

First is the word “Turkmen”. All my life, people from Turkey were called “Turks”. Men, women, whatever. Now, listening to the radio lately, said people have been referred to as “Turkmen”. When did this change? Why didn’t I get the memo? Does it refer only to males?

Second is the word “Sheik”. All my life it has been pronounced “Sheek” or “Chic” (for those who took French classes). On the radio, though, it’s been pronounced “Shake”, as in “your booty”. Again, when did this change? Why did it change?

-Joe, misunderestimating things

People from Turkey are still known as Turks. The Turkmen (also known as Turkomans) are members of a related but distinct ethnic group; Turkmen is a member of the Turkic language family, along with Turkish, Kazak, Uzbek, Azerbaijani, and others. They make up the majority of the population of Turkmenistan, one of the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, but others live in neighboring Central Asian states, Iran, Afghanistan, and as far away as Syria and northern Iraq. Just to really mess with things, there are a few Turkmen living in Turkey, alongside the majority Turks. You may have heard of them in connection with Iraq; they contribute to the volatile ethnic mix there: the Turkmens form a minority in the Kurdish-dominated north; Kurds in turn form a large minority in Turkey, and have sought independence from both Iraq and Turkey (as well as Iran and Syria). The Turks in turn have been supporting their Turkmen cousins against the non-Turkic Kurds in places like Kirkuk (which also has a lot of oil). (Although the Turkmen who live back in Turkey have at times apparently been discriminated against by the majority Turks.) Ethnic politics is such fun.

After that clear dissertation of the Turkic Turkmen who are not Turks, even though some live alongside Turks in Turkey, I felt like bursting into a chorus of “Constantinople”! :smiley:

Moderator’s Note: I also went ahead and edited the thread title a bit. I’ve got to inject a little clarity in this thing somehow.
That’s nobody’s business but the Turks’…ah, but which Turks?

Simple version of the above, disregarding ethnic overlaps:

Turks are from Turkey and speak Turkish.
Turkmen are from Turkmenistan and speak Turkmen.

As for “sheikh”, in my part of the world (UK) it’s always been pronounced like “shake”.

Worth noting is that “Turkey” as a designation for Anatolia (and easternmost Thrace) is only about 82 years old – the Turks conquered Anatolia less than 600 years ago, and spread throughout the Eastern Mediterranean littoral and the Balkans in the ensuing century or so. Saying “Turk” to Marco Polo or Thomas Aquinas would evoke a picture of steppe nomads, not Anatolians.

As for Sheik Yaboudi, about whom a popular dance song was written ;), my impression is that we borrowed “sheik” and then Anglicized it to rhyme with “sleek” – and the “shake” pronunciation is an effort on the part of newscasters to more accurately reflect the Arabic pronunciation of the word. (I welcome correction on that from someone who actually knows the area.)

I think you can credit Vince Mcmahon and the ol’ WWF wrestling league in the 1980’s for making “Sheek” popular, when the “Iron Sheik” was always called the “Iron Sheek”.
(Slight nitpick for all posters in GQ. **Post your ‘location’ in your profile. ** So many things can be explained by knowing where you are and/or where your from.)

Slight further nitpick: Does “Location: Location:” count as a location, Philster?

I should now point out that Philster went to his profile and changed it while I was posting, making my question moot.

I should be more specific in my pick:

If you post about language, expressions, colloquialism (?), then it’d be a good idea to post your location. Most of the time, it doesn’t help all that much, but you’d be surprised how much is explained when I see someone lives in say…another country, or part of the country, etc. Expressions, slang, pronunciation…)
(Damn, just had to catch me changing my profile :smiley: )

Got me, Giles.

And to add more excitement to the mix (as if you needed it), many of the other Turkic subgroups in the former Soviet Union (including Azeris, Tatars, and most of the ones already mentioned, along with some smaller ones) were at times all classified either as “Turks” or as “Tatars” for census purposes.

And to make things even more convoluted (as if this thread needed it), in the former Soviet Union various Turkic groups (including the ones already mentioned, but also including Azeris, Tatrs, and a bunch of smaller ones like the Balkars and Karachai and Chuvash) were classified either as “Turks” or as “Tatars” for census purposes at various times.

Well I should be slower in my nit-picking. Next time I’ll just count to 100 before jumping in :slight_smile:

You think that’s confusing… the speakers of Uralic languages in Siberia used to be called “Tatars” too. That’s because the Uralic languages were once lumped in classification with the Altaic languages, and they were all called “Tatar” indiscriminately. Why? Well, the Tatars speak an Altaic language. It was once thought that the speakers of Uralic and Altaic languages, because they spoke agglutinative languages, would form a Pan-Turanic movment. Turanic is an ancient word for Central Asian nomads applied in modern times as an umbrella term for Uralic + Altaic speakers. It makes more sense than calling them all “Tatars.”

You can still find etymologies of the word mammoth that perpetuate this confusion. Mammoth comes from Russian mamont, which the dictionary etymologies say came from a “Tatar” word meaning ‘earth’. Uh-uh. The actual word for earth in the real Tatar language is jir. The word for earth that the Russians got the word for mammoth from is derived from one of the Uralic languages of Siberia, for example the Ob-Ugric languages Khanty or Mansi, which are related to Hungarian. The word for earth in Mansi is , which seems to have been the source of mammoth. Because frozen mammoths were dug out of the Siberian permafrost. The word for earth in some Finnic languages is the same word, for example Finnish and Estonian maa.

More confusion… Nowadays the Kazakhs and the Kyrgyz are two distinct nations. But before World War II or thereabouts, the Russian name for the Kazakhs was Kyrgyz. If you read about history of Central Asia in the 19th or early 20th century, you have to keep that in mind to avoid being thrown completely off track.

The Arabic word shaykh literally means ‘old man’, but it is used to mean a man, not necessarily old, in a position of authority. Could be meant in either a political or religious sense, both, or neither. Sometimes women of authority are called shaykhah, adding a feminine ending to the originally masculine word. Anyway, the Arabic word ends with -kh, not -k. Those are two completely different letters in the Arabic alphabet.

The spelling “sheik” in English is a badly mangled version of the word, so why not adjust it to be a little closer to the original Arabic? These days, Arabs are not far-off exotic sand creatures living on the far side of the globe. There are lots of them right here in America, and like it or not, Americans have been thrown into everyday contact with them. The incentive for the study of the Arabic language has recently increased rapidly in the USA, so naturally many Americans are starting to get better acquainted with it.

Speaking of Turkmenistan: remember when Homer Simpson lost his driver’s license and took to walking? He sang a song about walking to Turkmenistan? One of the few times that country’s name has entered America’s consciousness.

Nope, it goes back a lot further than that. I give you The Sheik of Araby, from 1921. I had an old 78 rpm record of that song, and it was certainly pronounced “sheek” then.

Damn you for denying my attempt to incorporate the WWF into a GQ thread.

We’re alert to the efforts of Vince McMahon and his wily minions, so don’t try anything funny. Next thing, you’ll be trying to sneak in some references to Chief Jay Strongbow. :smiley: